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Domestication of Animals
to have had a great effect upon our careers. The one element, that varies in
different individuals, but is constant in each of them, is the natural
tendency; it corresponds to the current in the stream, and inevitably
asserts itself.
Much stress is laid on the persistence of moral impressions made in
childhood, and the conclusion is drawn, that the effects of early teaching
must be important in a corresponding degree. I acknowledge the fact, so
far as has been explained in the chapter on Early Sentiments, but there is a
considerable set-off on the other side. Those teachings that conform to the
natural aptitudes of the child leave much more enduring marks than
others. Now both the teachings and the natural aptitudes of the child are
usually derived from its parents. They are able to understand the ways of
one another more intimately than is possible to persons not of the same
blood, and the child instinctively assimilates the habits and ways of
thought of its parents. Its disposition is “educated” by them, in the true
sense of the word; that is to say, it is evoked, not formed by them. On
these grounds I ascribe the persistence of many habits that date from early
home education, to the peculiarities of the instructors rather than to the
period when the instruction was given. The marks left on the memory by
the instructions of a foster-mother are soon sponged clean away. Consider
the history of the cuckoo, which is reared exclusively by foster-mothers. It
is probable that nearly every young cuckoo, during a series of many
hundred generations, has been brought up in a family whose language is a
chirp and a twitter. But the cuckoo cannot or will not adopt that language,
or any other of the habits of its foster-parents. It leaves its birthplace as
soon as it is able, and finds out its own kith and kin, and identifies itself
henceforth with them. So utterly are its earliest instructions in an alien
bird-language neglected, and so completely is its new education
successful, that the note of the cuckoo tribe is singularly correct.
Before leaving the subject of Nature and Nurture, I would direct
attention to evidence bearing on the conditions under
This memoir is reprinted from the Transactions of the Ethnological
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